​What Did You Think Of The Game of Thrones Premiere?

Everyone's back, and everything's different, and you can just tell that at some point soon, everything's going to fall apart. Welcome back to Game of Thrones!

Of course it's all going to fall apart—what else would really happen in Westeros, after all? This isn't really a place where things arrive at a comfortable status quo and stay put.

The show returned for its fourth season last night, and I'm curious what you all thought. First, some of my own scattered thoughts, with spoilers for last night's episode.

  • Not everyone's back, of course—the cast feels markedly lighter after the Red Wedding cleared a few regulars and plotlines from the cast. It's better for it, in my opinion. There are still a ton of stories and characters to keep straight, but it's good that this show will undergo a (painful) purging every so often to keep things light and moving forward.
  • Each year I'm impressed with how much better the visual effects on GoT get. All of the bits with Dany were just excellent looking, to the point where I'd say this show has the best production values of any TV show in history. (Fair? I might be forgetting something.)
  • Nice to see Michiel Huisman, known to me as the troubled but eventually cool keyboardist Sonny from Treme but who also turned up on Nashville, here stepping in to take over the role of Daaruo Naharis. I didn't mind the original actor, but I really like Huisman - feels like this role could help him break through and land bigger roles. You've come a long way, Sonny.
  • Another character I didn't think I'd be as psyched to see as I was: Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper. Pedro Pascal made a hell of a debut, and it felt much clearer to me on the show than it was in the books just what was going on and what was at stake. As Tyrion said in the books, "This will mean blood in the gutters." Vulture's got an enjoyable interview with Pascal that's worth checking out.
  • And of course, I wholly approve of the episode's final scene. Arya finally gets some measure of revenge on Polliver, and takes Needle back in the process. Very different than what happened in the books, but also way more satisfying. Valar morghulis, motherfucker.

Elsewhere: A few other, more in-depth recaps that I really liked: As usual, Charlie Jane Anders at our sister site io9 has a great write-up, and like last season, I really liked Laura Hudson's recap at Wired, in which she does a lot of helpful comparisons between what happened in the books and on the show. (Disclosure: I helped a little bit with the editing on that second one.) And as usual, I also enjoyed this recap from Previously.TV written by Blackie and Bitey, two of Westeros' most outspoken crows.

But that's just me. What did you all think?